Swine Flu Overreaction?

April 29, 2009 8:46:53 PM PDT
Some doctors say the swine flu scare is blown out of proportion and the regular flu is really more of a concern.Nobody's tested positive for swine flu in Fresno County, but even firefighters and paramedics are taking extra precautions to stay healthy.

The virus has a lot of people thinking about protecting themselves and especially their kids, who are among the most vulnerable.

"I'm all like rubbed down with all kind of bacteria stuff right now because I'm really scared," said Fresno resident Tina Turner.

"I'll start washing my hands really more often," said Wawona Middle School 7th grader Yasmine Mendez.

Our exclusive Action News poll conducted by Survey USA shows the number of people who are "very concerned" about swine flu was up from 13% Monday to 22% Tuesday.

All types of flu are always a serious concern in the medical profession...About 36,000 Americans die from run-of-the-mill influenza every year. But outbreaks can be even worse: 600,000 Americans died from swine flu in 1918.

Doctors expect outbreaks every ten years or so, and they say we might be overdue. "We haven't seen that since 1976, so people have been cautious about every flu season: "Is this the season?"said Dr. Vickie Krenz, a Fresno State epidemiologist.

The question now is whether we're overreacting like we did in 1976. That year, about 200 people came down with swine flu. 40 million people got inoculated against the virus and more people died from the shot than from the disease.

Only one person died of swine flu in 1976, but the government produced scary public service announcements encouraging swine flu shots that were sometimes deadly: And the fear factor is strong again now. Because the outbreak originated in Mexico, sentiment is growing to cut off travel.

Our exclusive poll shows that 57% of Americans want to stop flights from Mexico to the U.S., up from 43% a day earlier. "I think it's a big time overreaction," said Damon Stone, of Fresno. "I don't think we should shut it down. Just be more thorough about what's going in and out."

The government's biggest challenge now may not be the virus itself, but the challenge to use extreme caution without creating a hysteria creating more trouble than the flu itself.

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